“The east end is always getting overlooked”: Scarborough transit riders, on why they still support the subway extension

“The east end is always getting overlooked”: Scarborough transit riders, on why they still support the subway extension

Scarborough is finally on the verge of getting its coveted subway extension, but the result may not be one worth celebrating. After years of political infighting at city hall, the plan has been whittled down to just one new stop, at Scarborough Centre, to replace the five stations on the Scarborough RT. Equally vexing is the price tag, which seems to inflate wildly with every new city staff report. The latest estimates, released to the public late last month, put the cost of construction at somewhere north of $3.35 billion.

None of this would be happening if there wasn’t a perception, among policymakers, that Scarborough residents are dying for underground transit. These days, no politician gets elected in the east end of the city without first pledging fealty to the subway plan. Who are the voters whose support for the subway extension keeps it at the top of the city’s political agenda, and do they reallllly want it? Like, really? We went to Scarborough Centre to find out.

Sagal Duale

18, nursing student from Morningside and Ellesmere

“I support the idea of expanding transit in Scarborough. I didn’t know it was going to cost that much, but I knew it would be expensive. Compared to larger budgets for other things, I think it might be reasonable.”

Donna Samuel

52, unemployed, from Morningside and the 401

“I’d prefer the RT to stay. Instead of putting in the one-stop subway, I think they should consider extending it from Fairview Mall to McCowan, or even the Toronto Zoo. I agree that we should have better transit service in the Scarborough area, but this one-stop subway? I’m not 100 per cent on board.”

Sandra Stevens

54, high school teacher from Rouge Hill

“I don’t really know what things cost, but for sure we need something out here in Scarborough. It’s long overdue. They need to hurry up, because we’ve got people that are commuting here for two or more hours, to get to jobs that probably don’t pay well.”

Farez Hassan

28, program analyst from Scarborough Centre

“There are a lot of people living here, so there’s gotta be investments behind infrastructure. I support that.”

Michael Chen

31, citizen service officer from Markham

“I definitely support the Scarborough subway extension. The RT is too small and doesn’t accommodate the population here in Scarborough. I always feel like Toronto’s east end is getting overlooked. Having a subway extension, with a real subway that comes to Scarborough, would definitely help the residents here. I’m fully aware of the costs involved. To be honest, I don’t really know if the price is reasonable. I just hope they don’t raise our property tax.” [Ed. note: They already did.]

Ravi Rasiah

42, IT systems consultant from Scarborough Centre

“Of course having a subway is good: it’s going to make my commute much easier and safer, and hassle-free during winter because it’s underground. But it feels like this number, $3.35 billion, is coming out of nowhere. Why didn’t lawmakers set aside money for this? Why isn’t the federal government supporting us? I feel like the feds should take on a major portion of this cost. Toronto’s land transfer tax is double Markham’s, hydro has gone up 150 per cent over the last two years, and our cost of living is going up. Putting the burden on Toronto taxpayers isn’t fair.”

Nusrat Nizan

27, energy healer from Kennedy and Eglinton

“I am a subway supporter, because I love the ads on the subway. Sometimes I get bored on my phone and I just read the ads and they’re very interesting. It keeps me entertained. I didn’t know about the price. I feel like that’s a lot of money, but I guess it’s reasonable.”

Colleen Cairney

43, market researcher from Parkdale

“Right now, travel is slow between Main and Kennedy. If we get a subway here, it may speed things up. The ‘billion’ is what’s getting me. That’s a lot. If it was just millions, I’d be okay with it. But a billion is a large number and that’s what’s got me on the fence.”